The Indonesia Open is back in town, and it’s bigger than ever.
Boasting more prize money and a higher status, the country’s top tournament received another boost when the World Badminton Federation announced it would serve as part of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.
Having already boosted its purse to $600,000 — second only to the $1 million Korea Open — and been promoted to one of five Premier Series tournaments, the Indonesia Open will see even stronger competition in the race to qualify for London.
Premier Series events are mandatory for the world’s top 10 players in every division, and badminton’s world governing body has ruled that the top 16 players in the world rankings on May 3 next year will qualify for the Olympics.
“It is an honor for Indonesia to host such a big event and witness the world’s best talents playing in the flesh. We know that winning titles is important, but we won’t set any target for the players to meet, especially as some of our big names have just recovered from various injuries and they’re now facing their first test at Singapore Open,” Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) president Djoko Santoso said.
The Indonesia Open, which takes place June 21 to 26 at Istora Gelora Bung Karno, will include 298 players from 25 countries.
No Indonesian shuttler has won a title at their home tournament since 2008, and the increased interest in the event could see some local competitors who surprised the home crowd with their performances last year miss out this time.
Anna Rovita, who came through qualifying last year and made a stunning run to the women’s singles semifinals, is among them. The Djarum Kudus Club shuttler has to start her home tournament in qualifying once again.
Indonesia’s leading lights face tough tests as well, though, and the PBSI expects its top shuttlers to improve their chances of qualifying for the London Olympics.
“The hunt for tickets to the Olympics has been going since May, and it is not easy as they have to compete with players from all around the world. I hope they won’t waste the chance to improve their ranking by playing at this tournament in their home ground,” national team head coach Christian Hadinata said.
The country’s shuttlers have only brought home one Super Series championship so far this year, but there have also been signs of progress.
Mixed doubles pair Fran Kurniawan Teng and Pia Zebadiah Bernadet have received praise for their recent performances, including decisive victories against Malaysian and Japanese duos at this year’s Sudirman Cup.
“We are very proud of our players’ performances so far, but that doesn’t mean they can feel satisfied. It’s too early. They must keep fighting, and it is the coaches’ job to maintain their performance and confidence,” Christian said.
Tobacco company Djarum, which last year signed a deal to sponsor the tournament until 2013, said it was considering adding to the cash prize next season.
“By bringing the tournament to a higher level, we have shown our commitment to bringing badminton supremacy back to the country,” Djarum director Yan Haryadi Susanto said on Wednesday.